Over-indebted Lisbon wins municipal support desk | deco

The worsening of economic conditions, felt especially in recent months, is forcing many families to undergo tremendous financial gymnastics, leading them to exhaust their savings and often leading them to unsustainable situations. So much so that, even before it is up and running, the counter that the Lisbon City Council (CML) opens this Thursday, at its premises in Campo Grande, in partnership with the Portuguese Association for Consumer Defense (Deco), to help people in difficulty, has already received requests for assistance. Last year alone, Deco will have served more than a thousand households in this situation residing in the capital.

“We have already received requests for help from dozens of people, some referred by the parish councils”, confirms to PÚBLICO the councilor responsible for Human and Social Rights, Sofia Athayde. Admitting that the opening of the over-indebtedness support office, called the “Healthy Finances” branch, “is a mark of the clear existing concern with the current economic and financial climate”, the mayor stresses the “enormous combined effects that inflation, and in particularly the cost of essential goods, high interest rates and even energy costs, are taking their toll on families”.

Natália Nunes, coordinator of Deco’s financial protection office, has great confidence in the way in which this branch can come to help many families in trouble. “It is true that the rise in interest rates had a big impact on those who have home loans, but it was mainly families with lower incomes, and with rented houses, who felt the impact of the worsening economic conditions, demonstrating many difficulties in maintaining commitments such as paying for gas and water or the supermarket bill. Those price hikes made the difference.” The person in charge says that, in 2022, Deco helped a “significant number of people” in these conditions in the city of Lisbon. Without exact numbers, she says that “there were certainly more than a thousand families” in this situation.

Over the counter or over the phone

Enlighten citizens on the best ways to effectively manage the family budget, support them in the process of restructuring credit and debt contracts and provide specialized advice in areas related to family protection measures, both at local and national level, such as such as energy saving, food and other social supports, are the main functions of the space. The “Healthy Finances” counter will be open on weekdays and for a period of four hours a day – from 2 pm to 6 pm, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; from 9am to 2pm, on Tuesdays and Thursdays – at the town hall located at nº 25 in Campo Grande. Attendance presupposes, however, booking through the free telephone line 800 910 523 – which will also provide advice – or at one of the five Lisbon stores.

“This service will allow support not only for those who are already in situations of over-indebtedness, but also for those who may be”, says the councilor, stressing that the office has functions of support and guidance, but also of counseling. Sofia Athayde explains that, in addition to specialized support from Deco’s lawyers, anyone who goes to the Over-indebtedness Support Office may also have their situation forwarded to the social services of the municipality. The council has a set of responses, such as the 65+ Health Plan, the Baby Cabaz or the financial aid provided for in the Lisbon Social Emergency and Recovery Fund – this being an exceptional and temporary support given to needy households in serious housing emergency situation or situation of emerging economic need.

In addition to the opening of “Finanças Saudáveis”, CML and Deco will work together to offer citizens a set of 24 training actions, information sessions and workshops, within the scope of promoting financial literacy, managing the family budget and saving energy, among other useful information.

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